Ray Besserdin

I recall my La Trobe years as one of my all-time favourite achievements, beginning with how excited I was to be accepted into my course of choice, first round in 1978.

I had two major interests in life back then: art and insects, and I already knew Dr Tim New who encouraged me to enrol at La Trobe as my way in. I elected at first to do Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, and, of all things, Geology in year one. I totally fell in love with Geology and ended up “aceing” the year to become one of the top five students of 1979. Professor Alan White approached me afterwards to persuade me to stay on the rest of my undergrad course. Stubbornly, I stuck to what I enrolled in, choosing Botany, Zoology and Microbiology for second year while focussing on Zoology and Botany in the last, but I had a ball!

Every morning I arrived for lectures excited by what fascinating things I would learn and experience in the day ahead. I’d even look up at the brick buildings smiling, even in winter with rain clouds overhead, because I felt so content and privileged to be in this place doing what I loved. Still, art played its part throughout, in fact, I won the competition for the Biology Society Logo Design, seeing it later printed on tees and other tops, and designed the Microbiology banner for Open Day in 1980.

Ray with the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Scott, at the 25th Convocation dinner in December, 1989

Paradoxically, it was not Entomology but Marine Botany and Plant Physiology where I found myself excelling in third year. Dr Woelking just inspired me and I loved his seaweed hunting excursions by the coast. Dr Pellaghy I thank too for the nights sitting alone on projects for him playing with the massive stereoscopic electron microscope! Who gets to do that?!

I chose to follow my heart to become an artist in the end. It was the right choice but never does a day pass where my La Trobe studies don’t serve to benefit me. I carry my memories like a crown.